A new climate-smart initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is being applauded by agricultural organizations. Announced last week, the program’s goal is to expand the deployment of climate-smart farming and forestry practices. USDA will be supporting a series of pilot projects to provide incentives for adopting various conservation practices on working lands. These projects will also be measured for their quantifiable environmental benefits.
“Secretary Vilsack’s focus on pilots to get the policy ‘right’ will help inform future discussions and ensure we are doing the best for the environment, our farms and ranches, and rural communities,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “Reducing barriers, addressing challenges, and encouraging opportunities for all farmers and ranchers, no matter the size of their farm or where they are located, will be key to success.”
The new climate-smart initiative will rely heavily on cooperative partnerships and voluntary actions of farmers and ranchers. National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern also commended the announcement, saying it will help ensure U.S. farmers and ranchers can continue to meet global food demand. “It also will help keep U.S. farmers competitive in a global market that’s increasingly sensitive to agriculture’s effects on climate,” Mulhern noted.
Agricultural groups have praised the incentive-based approach to further engage agriculture in efforts to address environmental concerns. USDA has indicated its intention to help lower barriers to adoption for climate-smart practices and continue working toward more viable options for farmers and ranchers. “Family farmers and ranchers, if provided with the right tools and support, can be an integral part of the climate solution,” National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said in a press release.
USDA is currently seeking feedback on the new climate-smart initiative. Comments on the initiative’s design will be accepted via the Federal Register before November 2. USDA is encouraging input from a wide array of stakeholders including agriculture, environmental groups, tribal organizations and governments, along with renewable energy groups.